Uses of the Past

Equal Rights envoys of the National Woman's Party, 1927. Source: Wikimedia

Quoting authorities from the past, such as the famous cultural historian Johan Huizinga, is one of the many ways history is used. In this case, it is used to legitimize our pursuit of a cultural history which actively bridges science and society.

History is the spiritual form in which a culture testifies of its past.

Johan Huizinga, 1929

In terms of content, we focus on the way(s) individuals, groups and whole cultures or societies shaped and give meaning to the past. In that process, academic historiography has a role, but it is and has never been all-determining. History is equally made and enjoyed in or through public institutions such as archives, museums and schools, and popular media such as newspapers, films, games and podcasts. We therefore study the handling of the past in the wide range of practices of history making.

All these uses of the past are a source of information and pleasure, create economic value, shape personal and collective identities, but also create divisions. Much of our research therefore focuses on issues of power. We study political-ideological, economic and other mechanisms of appropriation, inclusion and exclusion in the production, distribution and consumption of culture in the form of history. We do this in connection with society, by doing public history. 


Together with social partners, we formulate themes and questions, conduct research and/or translate the results into products that reach a wider audience and contribute to a more critical handling of the past in the present. Some examples are: